A young woman with cystic fibrosis reveals how blessings come when you least expect #TiffGotLungs

On November 30, 2016 Tiffany Rich, a 29-year old from San Francisco, received the life-saving gift of a double-lung transplant. 

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Photo credit: Tiffany Rich

Tiffany had grown up  struggling to breathe. She was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF) at birth, a condition that causes thick sticky fluid to build up in her lungs and other organs.

Her parent’s wanted to give her the same opportunities in life as healthy people. 

They told her from an early age that, “Whatever you want to do, you go for it and don’t let anybody tell you differently because that’s what you should do. You shouldn’t have anything hold you back from your dreams.”

She was on oxygen 24/7 and had a daily routine of medications and physical therapy treatments.

“As I started getting sicker, I saw it as an outlet to showcase the real side of CF and I wanted to show people that I may look like a really normal person, and on the street you would never think I had anything going on, but there’s this side of me that is not so pretty.”

Tiffany began using social media to document her journey and show people what living with cystic fibrosis is really like.

People that she went to school with started watching her videos and did not realize that she had a chronic lung condition. Former classmates would say to her:

“Tiffany, I never knew. You did not show anything, and I would never have known if I hadn’t seen your Instagram.” 

tiffany_rich_cystic_fibrosis
Photo credit: Tiffany Rich

At 23-years old her lungs were functioning at 30 percent. Doctors told her that her condition was at end stage. She needed to be evaluated for a transplant.

In an article that Tiffany wrote for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, she says, “I didn’t want to come to terms with it, but I finally gave in and did all the necessary testing.”

A year later she was placed on the double-lung transplant list. It would not be until 973 days later that she would receive the call that would change her life.

It was 2:30 in the morning when she got the call.She ignored it at first thinking it was a telemarketer.

Tiffany’s phone rang a second time. She then knew that this was something important.

Her mom was already awake ready to go to work when she overheard Tiffany on the phone.

“Tiffany, why are you on the phone? What’s going on?” her mom asks.

“Mom, mom, shush. It’s the call, it’s the call.”

She did not have to be in the hospital for a few hours. 

When I asked Tiffany during an interview how she felt at the time she said, “No, I’m not going back to bed after that. Are you kidding me?”

She began calling her friends and boyfriend in the early hours of the morning. None of them picked up. 

Tiffany then reached out to the sister of one of her best friends. Serendipitously she had woken up five minutes before Tiffany called her.

A good life is built with good relationships as Dr. Robert Waldinger from Harvard University has stated in a previous blog post. 

Tiffany’s family and friends that have been with her on the journey say “we” have CF as they feel it emotionally too. 

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Photo credit: Tiffany Rich

Doctors told her that her donor was involved in a car accident and had a few punctures in them. 

“Those punctures were patched up, scanned, and looked over thoroughly before they were put into my body” says Tiffany.

She needed to be placed on a ventilator since her body could not cope with the stress of her breathing on her own at first. 

tiffany_rich_cystic_fibrosis
Photo credit: Tiffany Rich

Six months prior to her transplant Tiffany started to feel anxious.

“I needed oxygen 24/7, I felt like if I took it off I couldn’t breathe, it was this mental thing. That was my comfort.”

Tiffany was not allowed to have anxiety medication since it would affect her breathing. One way in which she managed the anxiety was through listening to music.

Tweet: “Taylor (Swift’s music) has done a lot for me. I look up to her when I need my spirits lifted,” says Tiffany. 

tiffany_rich_cystic_fibrosis
Photo credit: Tiffany Rich

Tiffany and her best friend Kelsey Sleek had an idea to get Taylor’s attention.

“My No. 1 dream, other than new lungs, was to meet Taylor.”

Tiffany and her best friend made a poster which read:

“My name is Tiffany Rich. I am battling Cystic Fibrosis and currently on the double lung transplant list. My one wish is to meet my inspiration, Taylor Swift, who has helped me smile through the darkest of days of my life-threatening disease. On August 15th at Levis Stadium, I hope to check this off my bucket list. I couldn’t think of a better way to wait for lungs. Please share in hopes Taylor will see this. Thank you. #Lungs4Tiff.”

She posted the photo on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook. Within minutes the photo received thousands of retweets and shares.

Neither Tiffany or Kelsey thought the photo would ever go viral. The least they hoped for was that they would help spread awareness about cystic fibrosis.

One of Taylor’s PR reached out to her via email saying, “She wants to meet you!”

I asked Tiffany what was it like to Taylor. Her eyes lit and she gave me this response:

“She’s just amazing, and I really wish I could have another hug, another Taylor hug.”

There are approximately 1,000 people diagnosed wth cystic fibrosis each year in the U.S.

Most people in need of at transplant will spend years waiting on the organ donation list. The possibility of an offer is never certain.

I asked Tiffany what she would say to encourage others to consider becoming an organ donor. This is what she had to say:

It’s so important to be an organ and tissue donor because I would not be here had I not gotten it. I’m a walking billboard right here. Why wouldn’t you want to save someone if you can’t use your organs anymore?  That’s what I say. If you can’t use them anymore, why let them go to waste when they could save someone that’s going to have the gift of life and just cherish that and not take it for granted? Especially, who wouldn’t want a piece of you? That’s a thing.

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Photo credit: Tiffany Rich

Tiffany was able to have a better chance at life because of organ donation. The chances for a human to be born is rare—400 trillion to one. If you are able to be alive right now you have already won the lottery which is life. Step out, do your thing. Do the 10, 50, 100 things you have always wanted to do. You were born to do more than live a mediocre life.

As Maya Angelou, American poet and civil rights activist, once said, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away.”

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Afterthoughts

What unexpected blessings have you received in your life? Let me know in the comments down below.

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